Enrique Dans
  • Professor of Innovation at IE Business School

Is your company a social media zombie?

On the basis of sustained observation over recent years, I can only express my stupor at the failure of most companies to use the social networks to their full advantage: interminable lists of tweets or soulless Facebook updates; rubbish that in an earlier time wouldn’t have made it onto a press release is now sent off to ad agencies to program it, send it out into the world, and then write up the few responses to it in a report.

It’s sad but true that for some companies this is the extent to which they are using two-way communication. In other cases it’s even worse: they subcontract everything out, including updating content. Having been told, “you have to be on social media because they are very important”, these companies simply send out boring, inane messages about stuff that nobody is interested in. If anybody decides to actually follow the brand, it won’t be for its content, but for other reasons. But it doesn’t matter: the important thing is to have a presence on the social networks: we mustn’t appear to be out of date.

Isn’t anybody at least going to try to come up with a creative approach to using the social media? Isn’t anybody going to take a rational approach and start by asking what their goals are, what they are trying to achieve, and why they should actually be there in the first place? But why bother when all you have to do is ring up an ad agency, pay them some money, and hey presto? Presumably the senior managements of all these companies are too busy with other tasks to find the time to think about how the social networks can be used in a new way, rather than sending out the same old rubbish in a new format.

Let’s be honest: look at your company’s updates on Facebook and Twitter from the point of view of a potential client. Are they really going to engage anybody’s imagination? Or are they just more of the same old same old that used to exist before the social networks existed?

There are any number of companies out there who will lay claim to a presence on the social networks, when in reality they have no strategy and no idea what kind of content is required, leaving the whole thing to an agency that has simply replaced “campaigns” and “advertisements” with tweets and Facebook updates.

But this isn’t what social media is about. If you delegate your web strategy in this way, the only thing you’re telling the world about your company is that you are living in the past. Ask yourself: why should anybody follow you when the only thing you have to tell the world is the same old empty news, the same old prizes: the same old same old.

Might it not be an idea, instead, to involve your workforce, to use the social networks to tell people about what they do, why they work for your company, what they think about things, what the thinking is behind their actions, and how they solve problems? The problem is that you can’t subcontract that: it has to be real, and it has to involve the management at the highest level.

You see, effective, imaginative use of the social media isn’t just more of the same old same old, it can’t be farmed out to an ad agency. It is different, which means simply “being” on it isn’t enough. It requires commitment. You have to be up to scratch.

Here’s an idea: find the time to have a close look at your company’s Twitter account, and go over the last couple of weeks, checking each update one by one. Ask yourself, in all honesty, who on Earth is going to be interested in them. Why was it written? Just because “we had to”? What was the objective? What was the strategy, if there was even one? And “being” doesn’t count. Perhaps the outcome of this exercise will be to show that your company is wasting time and money on something that serves no purpose other than to be able to say: “We have X followers…” …who must all be bots or brain dead.

Reading this, you might think the only answer is to abandon any pretense of using social media. In a world in which a significant part of your indexing and visibility depends precisely on how you use the social networks, that would be SEOcide. At the same time, however, “being” on them for the sake of it, publishing rubbish that nobody is interested in, and farming out the challenge isn’t going to help much…

A few years ago, the question was whether your company was on the social networks. Today, the question isn’t quite the same… although we haven’t progressed much either. Now the question is whether your company is a social networks zombie?

The author has licensed this article under CC BY